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Where Have All the Farms Gone?

Where Have All the Farms Gone?

 

NOTE: This is a guest post from Karen Steuer, Director of the Reforming Industrial Animal Agriculture campaign at the Pew Environment Group.

During the past 50 years, animal agriculture has gone through a seismic shift in the United States. Long gone are the iconic scenes of American landscapes dotted with family farms and red barns. Most of these have been replaced by industrialized facilities controlled by large corporations that rely on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). In this system, cavernous warehouses crowded with thousands — even tens of thousands — of animals form the equivalent of an agricultural assembly line. And independent farmers, once the cornerstone of rural America, struggle to compete in a marketplace dominated by a few big corporations.

As large corporations (known as integrators) have applied an industrial model to farming, they have also generated a host of new problems.

The CAFO model relies on three interlinked practices in order to increase profits:

• Maximize the number of animals squeezed into the least amount of space and require the fewest number of employees to provide care.
• Administer continual doses of antibiotics to the animals to prevent the diseases prevalent in their close-quarters housing.
• Minimize the disposal cost for the substantial volume of animal waste produced by the facilities.

These practices may turn a profit for the big corporations, but they are disastrous for human health and the environment. Up to 1 billion tons of manure is generated by livestock operations every year, much of it from CAFOs. In some cases, the waste is stored in large lagoons or open piles that can leak or spill into adjacent land and water. In other cases, manure is liberally spread on fields in such overwhelming concentrations that soil and crops often cannot impede all of the nitrogen, phosphorus and pathogens from reaching public waterways.

The mishandling of manure has resulted in contaminated drinking water sources for 40 percent of the U.S. population in recent years, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Tainted drinking water, destruction of fish and other aquatic life, and polluted recreation areas, however, are just part of the damage caused by CAFOs.

Countless independent farmers have been pushed out of business. Millions of animals have been confined to crates or cages and subjected to inhumane practices. The human health threat of antibiotic-resistant infections continues to rise. And the corporate integrators have largely been insulated from regulation, transparency and requirements many other industries must follow with regard to pollution.

Shortly after the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production released a groundbreaking report on this topic in 2008, the Pew Environment Group launched a campaign aimed at reforming this sector of agriculture. Pew is working to address these challenges by securing effective, sensible government oversight to protect water resources and human health; urging the industry to change its practices; and building public awareness of the problems.

During the next several months, I will use this series to describe the environmental concerns associated with CAFOs, the impact on independent farmers, the industry’s resistance to change, and how this issue affects our quality of life in the United States. For more information and to take action, please click here.

 

Related Stories:

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4 More Reasons Not To Eat Meat

 

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81 comments

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6:35PM PST on Dec 1, 2012

This is a very good question, thanks for asking.

12:53PM PDT on Jun 5, 2012

My dad farmed all his life but it did not support his 8 kids as prices went up for everything except what he got for the crops. He said that one day when the corporations take over people will regret what they will get. Animals will be used like machines and farms will be chemically run. This is what happened. You can't put stuff into your food without you getting it too. I feel that the growth hormones and other stuff is also adding to our weight. It is not all the reason but you are what you eat.

12:53PM PDT on Jun 5, 2012

My dad farmed all his life but it did not support his 8 kids as prices went up for everything except what he got for the crops. He said that one day when the corporations take over people will regret what they will get. Animals will be used like machines and farms will be chemically run. This is what happened. You can't put stuff into your food without you getting it too. I feel that the growth hormones and other stuff is also adding to our weight. It is not all the reason but you are what you eat.

5:02AM PDT on Apr 13, 2012

Big corporations are everywhere, even controling our food. How sad for all the little farms :(

11:45AM PDT on Apr 5, 2012

Some might call it progress...I call it destruction of our environment and incredibly sad. I don't want to see what kind of world we will have in 10-15-20 years from now.

9:59AM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

Small and family farms need the support of local people, then they would not need to compete with the big guys.
Community supported agriculture means that the farmer gets a regular market for his food, the supporters (who have shares in the farm) provide the security he needs and also they get the produce they need at a good price - or even free if they help work on the farm. A win/win situation.

Adopt a farmer, folks !! You know it makes sense.

5:23PM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

As Peter, Paul & Mary would say: "Where have all the farms gone? Gone for parking lots and more stores everywhere."

4:56PM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

Lets invite them all Michael !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! More crime, people who hate AMERICANS, poverty, job losses. Oh yea. Get real.

4:44PM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

we are going the way of Easter island...WE are not human beings of gentle aspiration for edification but greedy,selfish, self-serving, law of the jungle thinking, can't get out the cave mentality LOCUST...mindless all-consuming locust who consume all within reach then move on to the next feeding free-for-all feast till all is consumed,,,doing this over and over without variation, without thought, word,nor with God...to leave our kids...a cesspool wasteland...

4:11PM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

i agree Deb -all those illegal immigrants who came after 1492 w/o green cards should take their foreign English language and pasty white skins and go back to europe where the came from,right? Before they got here and polluted it from one side to the other and every acre,river ,lake and stream in-between...

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